Government by anonymous letter is the trend one can take away from the Summer of 2012. Santa Ana city council member and former Orange County middle manager Carlos Bustamante is facing criminal charges as a result of anonymous letters that made their way through to the County Board of Supervisors. OC Clerk Recorder and AD-69 candidate Tom Daly is also the subject of an investigation into improper behavior that came to light through an anonymous letter. And the trend continues.
Late last Spring, TheLiberalOC received two anonymous letters from “The Women of TPD” (Tustin Police Department) with complaints about alleged improper relationships between Tustin’s Police Chief Scott Jordan and female members of his staff.
Both letters arrived unsigned, without a return address, and were written in a manner that made it hard to follow. We initially asked the City of Tustin for employment records on a former employee to verify one of the claims, and some other claims in the letters frankly don’t pass the smell test. The human resources department at Tustin City Hall answered every question and at the time, we decided to pass on the story as most of the claims didn’t seem to hold up. These letters, we believe, were also sent to the OC Register and to the OurTownTustin blog; and given that OTT blogger Jeff Gallagher is a peace officer, we’ve had considerable conversations about the letters.
Simply put, some people with a political axe to grind try to use OC’s political blogs to air dirty laundry. Politicians are reluctant to demand corrections or offer comment largely due to First Amendment issues. Chris Prevatt and I review these “tips” and it’s pretty easy to see which ones don’t hold water and which ones do. And we respect the confidentiality of our sources.
Then came the Bustamante case. And then came the Daly case.
So we revisited the letters sent by The Women of TPD and provided copies to the city for their review. Some Tustin residents have encouraged us to provide copies to the DA’s office. We haven’t done that as this is a city matter and not a county one, but if the DA’s office wants them, they know how to reach us.
And even though some of the claims in the Daly letter don’t pass the smell test either, it didn’t stop the County from investigating Daly and the countyu appears to be dragging its feet on this investigation compared to the speed by which by City of Tustin has conducted their investigation. Tustin’s Chief Jordan, by all accounts, has a stellar reputation in the city. Tustin has a low crime rate. The Chief has the respect of council members on both sides of the dais. The city has encouraged us not to run this story. But because the Daly case became public, this story should be too.
The letters accusing the Chief of improper conduct have some details that are factual, and others that are pure hyperbole and not true. In the spirit that transparency reveals truth, we revisited the letters and gave copies to the City for an investigation of their own. We also agreed to publish the city’s response word for word. The City has established policies for whistleblowers – employees who see something wrong and have the ability to report it without fear of recrimination. The fact that unnamed “Women of TPD” felt that they had to send letters to media outlets says this system is either broken or that employees have little faith in it (as long as Jerry Amante sits on the city council, we’re not surprised).
We’ll start with the context of the letters. I have removed the names and titles of certain individuals to protect their privacy. I have also kept the incorrect spelling and grammar errors intact.
The first letter arrived in May:
“Dear Tustin Reporter,
We just sent Council Woman Gavello a letter about Chief Jordan, He has humiliated us because he slept with his TITLE DELETED when he was married to another woman. Then he tried to leave Tustin and applied for lots of jobs. No one would hire him because his affair was known in the law enforcement community. He didn’t get fired for having an affair. But we think sexual harassment is illegal. He is sworn to uphold the law, not break it.
We just found out that Chief Jordan got a raise at the last council meeting. How could the city council have done this? No one has gotten a raise in 4 years and we have takebacks. Plus he is having another affair with another employee.
From, The Women of TPD
His phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX”
Editor’s note: We verified Jordan’s home number was accurate.
The second letter came in June:
“Dear Tustin Reporter:
Doesn’t anyone want to stand up for the women of TPD? Isn’t illegal to sexually harass? Why should the top cop in town be allowed to?
Chief Jordan married a woman in GGTPD that was below him. Then came to Tustin and promoted a TITLE DELETED, NAME DELETED, all the way to TITLE DELETED, overlooking qualified but no so attractive or willing women. Then she got pregnant and when his wife found out he dumped his TITLE DELETED while she was pregnant. But he couldn’t save his marriage and divorced the police officer from Garden Grove.
Then the Chief had to marry NAME DELETED because she was going to sue Tustin, plus his wife called the HR department and reported the affair. NAME DELETED quit and they got married.
Now the Chief is having a special relationship with another woman, NAME DELETED, who was promoted and not qualified either. Everyone has to treat her special because she is the Chief’s new girlfriend. They traveled together last summer. Look at the records yourself. Now will NAME DELETED sue the city? Should we?
After all this he gets a raise. He is the only one getting the raise. Please help us,
The Women of TPD.”
We’ll note the Chief did marry a former employee of the department after she left the City’s employ. There was no pregnancy and no call to HR as alleged in the letter. The chief did travel with a woman named in the letter but several other members of the city’s elected officials and staff made the same trip. Hence, the holes in the story.
The city responded almost a week after we delivered the letters. We deleted names and titles in the city’s response to protect the privacy of those employees mentioned in the letter. The email from Tustin City Manager Jeff Parker goes like this:
First, the City takes very seriously an allegation of workplace harassment. I’ve attached a copy of the City’s Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation policy which can be found in the City’s Personnel Rules. A full copy of the Personnel Rules can be found on the City’s website in the Human Resources Department under the Labor Agreements (MOU’s)/Resolutions section. As part of the City’s training program, all employees participate in harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention training every other year. The training focuses on our policy, the law, and how employees can address concerns they have regarding conduct in the workplace. We conduct this training in the spring of odd numbered years. The last training was held in 2011 and we are scheduled for training again in spring 2013. Part of our harassment policy includes a complaint procedure. Please note that neither of the letters you provided to me were given to our HR department nor have complaints in any other form been received relating to this matter.
Additionally, in the Police department, as part of each employee’s annual performance review process, employees review and sign a policy review form. The purpose of this part of the evaluation process is to facilitate a conversation between employees and supervisors should the employee have concerns or questions.
The letters you submitted refer to issues at the City of Garden Grove. Police Chief Jordan has been employed with the City of Tustin since January 2005. Issues that may or may not have occurred at the City of Garden Grove are outside my purview. I cannot investigate them, verify them, or compel any employee at Garden Grove to provide me with information. As such, I feel it most important to focus on issues impacting Tustin.
With respect to the first letter about a relationship between Police Chief Jordan and a subordinate, I have looked into this and have confirmed that this issue was brought to the City’s attention over two years ago. The City Manager at the time investigated and handled the situation in accordance with the City’s policy. The City never received a complaint from any employee or citizen with respect to this issue. As this is a personnel issue, we are not permitted to report out to our employees or the public the results of our investigations or how we handle personnel related items. Therefore, we are not permitted by law to report to you the manner in which the situation was resolved. All I can do is to provide you assurance that the issue was reviewed and handled appropriately. As a side note, the allegations about pregnancy are unfounded, the Human Resources department never received a call from Chief Jordan’s ex-wife, and NAME DELETED never threatened to sue the city.
In the second letter you received, additional information was provided, all of which will be reviewed. A thorough analysis of each recruitment process occurring in the police department in the past several years has been conducted. The process included reviewing qualifications (education and experience), written exam scores, interview scores, and all other hiring practices. There is no data which supports the claim that hiring and promotions have been based on any criteria that are not job related. With respect to the specific allegation regarding the promotion of NAME DELETED from a “TITLE DELETED” to “TITLE DELETED,” that recruitment and selection process was specifically reviewed. That particular recruitment was an internal promotional process that had six internal candidates. Five were successful in passing all phases of the recruitment and there were two finalists identified for the position of TITLE DELETED. NAME DELETED was one of the finalists and was selected for the position; she exceeded the minimum qualifications for the position, and was accordingly promoted to the position of TITLE DELETED in 2006.
The final allegation is that the Police Chief is having a relationship with another subordinate. I have looked into this matter and at this time there is no credible evidence to support this allegation.
In closing, I’d like to add that I find it interesting that these letters were provided to you after the City entered into a contract with Chief Jordan rather than when the issues were actually occurring. Both letters refer to the contract and the raise that the Police Chief received in May 2012 and both letters refer to an issue that occurred in June 2010. What is alarming is that these concerned employees only became concerned almost two years after they allege harassment in the workplace occurred. Again, no police department employee has reported observing or feeling harassment of any form in the workplace relating to the Chief of Police. I request and encourage any individual who has a substantive complaint to come forward either to my office or to our Human Resources department so that actual facts and information can be obtained to assist in our review/investigation and to help improve the workplace.
Government by anonymous letter is unsavory. For every Carlos Bustamante situation where the letter led to an investigation which led to charges is one thing. But then there are cases like Daly and Parker where key facts in the charges are simply not true or fall apart upon investigation.
For the “Women of TPD,” you got your wish. Your letters have seen the light of day. And as unsavory as it was, the City of Tustin did the right thing and looked into this case and found the claims to be false with detailed explanations for hiring decisions and subtext to other claims.
While local government bodies who have whistleblower programs in place, those who have been whistleblowers are seldom seen as heroes. It’s a difficult thing to come forward against the powerful that so often even those who did wish they hadn’t. The reluctance of these “Women of TPD” employees to use the system in place means the city might want to re-examine its vehicle and process for whistleblowers as it certainly appears some employees don’t trust it.
But for those government employees who feel that they have no choice but to go to the local media with their story, some advice:
1. Ask a reporter or editor for confidentiality and make sure you get agreement before you say anything.
2. Summarize your complaint; Who, what, where, when, why (in your opinion) and how. Bring copies of documentation, emails, photographs, videos, audio files….be prepared to prove your claims. He said, she said isn’t going to help you. Copies of letters, emails, photos, and other evidence surely will.
3. Bring copies of department/city/county policy and show why your documentation proves your complaint.
4. It’s not what you think; it’s not what you heard. It’s what you can prove.
5. An employee who meets with a superior behind closed doors for an hour or two does not mean the two are having an affair; hasn’t anyone else had two hour business meetings with the boss or a conference call that required a closed door? Think of your own interactions; we all have relationships with our business associates that range from professional loathing to genuine affection and friendship.
6. Journalists can protect the identity of confidential sources provided you deliver on documenting your claims with evidence. It also helps if you have two or more colleagues who will back your story with details of their own. And yes, we’ll protect your identity if you have a tip for us. But we are going to check it out.
We took care with this story. It’s been reviewed thoroughly and we grateful to the Tustin city manager’s office and the HR Department at the City of Tustin for being patient, thoughtful and detailed in their response. At the very least, the letters exposed the fact that the city granted a raise to its Police Chief without taking into consideration a raise for its excellent police force rank and file.
Update on Sept. 18; we received a third letter today from the Women of TPD which alludes to a cozy relationship between Jeff Parker and Chief Jordan and enough information checked out to cause us to ask for some specific records relating to some of the charges. But the letter writers didn’t follow all of our advice and at best the “evidence” they have offered is weak at best. We wonder if the City Manager’s office will share this information with members of the city council at tonight’s meeting.